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Ollie Bearman, remember the name

Sensational, historic, record breaking. These are only a few of the fitting adjectives for Oliver Bearman’s surprise Formula 1 debut, undoubtedly the biggest story of the Saudi Arabian weekend. From taking a first Formula 2 pole position of 2024, to suddenly receiving Ferrari’s call to stand in for the appendicitis-stricken Carlos Sainz, to scoring points on a first Grand Prix appearance. All in the span of just over 48 hours.

Now, acting as a replacement driver and finishing in the points on a Formula 1 debut is nothing new. The last time this happened was at the 2022 Italian Grand Prix, when Nyck de Vries jumped in the Williams of Alex Albon – also diagnosed with appendicitis, coincidentally – and took the chequered flag in a stunning ninth on Sunday. But, not to take anything away from de Vries’ Monza heroics, there are several factors that make the British driver’s performance even more remarkable.

The level of experience

De Vries went into his Monza weekend as an already seasoned driver, with multiple championship titles under his belt. Bearman is an 18-year-old who has just entered his sophomore year of Formula 2, after impressing on his debut in the category and, the year before, in his only season in Formula 3, where he finished a mere 8 points away from the title.

The challenge of unlearning

When it was announced that Bearman would be subbing for Sainz, the young Briton had a full day of lapping the Jeddah circuit in a Formula 2 car in his system already. Removing all the acquired references and having to find the limits of an entirely different piece of machinery in just one hour is extremely hard. Bearman went ahead and did exactly that, running his only free practice session cleanly and ending it inside the top-10.

Ollie Bearman driving the SF-24 during FP3 of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.  - Formula 1, 2024
Bearman driving the SF-24 during FP3 of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. – @ScuderiaFerrari via X

But it’s just free practice, one might say, qualifying is a different story. At the end of Q1 in Bahrain, the previous week, the whole grid was covered by one second. With such a tight field, anything above P20 would have been an achievement for Bearman. But the boy from Chelmsford went beyond that: got through to Q2 convincingly, measured himself respectably against teammate Charles Leclerc and nearly outqualified seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton.

The racetrack

The fastest of all street circuits, 15 meters at its widest, with walls awaiting whoever fails to maintain focus and accuracy at any moment. Jeddah is, to put it mildly, the least favorable track for a rookie to debut on. But despite that, Bearman had his elbows out right from the start of the race. His overtakes showed confidence in both planning and execution – the move on Yuki Tsunoda at the Safety Car restart is a gem in that regard – and his management over 50 laps was flawless, never putting a foot wrong en route to a seventh place finish.

Ollie Bearman ahead of Kevin Magnussen and Alex Albon at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. - Formula 1, 2024
Bearman ahead of Kevin Magnussen and Alex Albon during the race. – @ScuderiaFerrari via X

When presented with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity by the most prestigious Formula 1 team in history, Ollie Bearman swiftly answered the call and delivered. He did so with a brilliant showing, one that will go a long way to help him secure a place on the grid for next year – if it hasn’t already. What’s been written so far might be unsurprising for those who follow the junior formulas and have observed Bearman’s progression up to this moment. But for those who weren’t as familiar or hadn’t even heard of the young Brit until Friday morning… remember the name.

Claudio Scalia

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